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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pope proclaims special Year for Priests starting June 19

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Pope Benedict XVI has called a special Year for Priests, to begin on June 19 and run through the same date in 2010. The special year-- coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean Marie Vianney, the Curé of Ars-- is designed to strengthen the "missionary identity" of all Catholic priests, the Pope said.

In making his announcement on March 16, in a meeting with members of the Congregation for Clergy, underlined the importance of formation for candidates for the priesthood. The proper training, he said, should encourage "communion with unbroken ecclesial Tradition, without pausing or being tempted by discontinuity." Toward that end, the Pontiff added, seminarians should be schooled in "a correct reading of the texts of Vatican Council II, interpreted in the light of all the Church's doctrinal inheritance."

While he stressed the need to strengthen the missionary identity of the priesthood, Pope Benedict cautioned against pastoral plans that would make it possible "to 'do without' ordained ministry," saying that such plans could "lay the foundations for a further dilution of priestly ministry." Apparently referring to plans for "priestless parishes" in regions where the shortage of priests has become acute, the Pope warned that such efforts to cope with the shortage could actually aggravate the problem.

Shortly after the Pope made his state, the Vatican announced that the Holy Father will open the Year for Priests with a Vespers service in St. Peter's basilica on June 19. Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars, France, will bring the relics of St. Jean Vianney to the Vatican basilica for the occasion. During the year the Pope will formally proclaim the Curé of Ars as the patron saint of all the world's priests.

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